His real name was Joseph, but he was known by the early church as “Barnabas” because of his ability to encourage. He so excelled in the quality he was known as “Mr. Encouragement.” Sometimes we have to be around discouraging people and circumstances. There are people who apparently have the “gift” of being able to see the worst in every person and circumstance. They could find a way to pour cold water on a drowning man! However, people like Barnabas will always be needed and valued in the body of Christ.
Since God is “the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5), it follows that we are never more like Him than when we seek to properly honor Him through encouraging thoughts, words and actions (Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). In last week’s Monday’s With Mike, we noticed 3 areas where Barnabas greatly encouraged the church. Let’s consider 3 more now.
Like Barnabas, I Will Encourage the Church in the Area of Transition and Change (Acts 13-15). The church was growing, and God chose to use an encourager like Barnabas as the people of the church dealt with “growing pains.” Because he was anchored to the unchanging Rock of Ages, Barnabas encouraged as the times changed. He was humble enough to deal with the personal transition of “Barnabas and Paul” to “Paul and Barnabas” – the matter of ego and who gets “top billing.” As has often been said, “it takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.” To the credit of Barnabas, there really does not seem to be the slightest hint of animosity.
Barnabas also encouraged the church in embracing Gentile converts without adding circumcision and other aspects of the old law (Acts 15). He was absolutely uncompromising of the truth yet helped Christians faithfully navigate the changes which naturally occur in life.
Like Barnabas, I Will Encourage the Church in the Area of Personal Integrity and Conduct in Times of Disagreement in Judgment. In the closing verses of Acts 15 a “sharp disagreement” arises between Paul and Barnabas concerning John Mark going on the second missionary journey. While the disagreement was real and sharp, it is apparent they did not “bad mouth” each other and declare all-out war. Love for Christ and His church, along with the practice of godly character, prevailed. The way Paul and Barnabas dealt with this personality conflict serves as an excellent reminder that friction among members in matters of judgment need not lead to fracture of fellowship. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the work force of the church actually doubled today when there was a difference in personal judgment?
Like Barnabas, I Will Encourage the Church in the Area of How I Deal With Personal Sin and Failure (Galatians 2:11-14). Barnabas was not a perfect man; this account mentions that he was “led astray” by the hypocrisy of those who failed to treat Gentile Christians as family. But do not fail to notice Paul’s seeming apostolic shock that “even” Barnabas was “led astray.” It was uncharacteristic, something surprising and unexpected that “Mr. Encouragement” should act so discouragingly. Would Paul or our Lord be so shocked about your or my misbehavior? Would it be uncharacteristic of how we normally behave? There is no doubt that Barnabas responded to Paul’s rebuke with the spirit of David in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” This is true because life in Christ for Barnabas had been characterized by encouragement in being able to see the grace of God at work, by desiring to do good, by being full of God and His Spirit and by being full of faith (Acts 11:23-24). How about us?